August Reviews- Let's Get Critical, Critical

[please tell me you get it]

Maybe it's just me, but August flew by. I finished up summer break and then headed back to school for a few days of professional development only to start back with the kids on the fourteenth. While things got busy in a hurry, I did manage to read four books, with only one knocking my socks off.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
496 pages
I cannot possibly rave about this book enough- it was just that good. Ifemelu manages to earn a scholarship so that she can leave Nigeria to study in America, leaving behind her parents and boyfriend. She must adapt to life in the United States, learning how hard it can be to find a job, maintain relationships back home, and hold on to one's true identity while still assimilating enough to survive. Ifemelu starts an anonymous blog that provides a colorful social commentary on what it's like to be an African living in America (not not being an African American). Eventually she decides to return to Nigeria, which brings it's own challenges and changes. Adichie's writing, plot development, characters, and message are all equally powerful.

Verdict: While I obviously loved this book it's not for everyone. It's definitely a beast at almost 500 very dense pages. I think it may also make some white Americans a bit defensive; even I at times wanted to remind the author that it's not my fault I'm white. Nonetheless, for those that appreciate contemporary, African, or controversial fiction, this book is right up your alley.

Italian Ways by Tim Parks
288 pages
I already wrote a much longer review, but basically this is a travelogue of sorts about a man who travels the rails in Italy. He intermixes personal anecdotes with historical facts, showing what a force the railroad has been in Italy (Amtrak is nothing compared to the train systems over there, folks).

Verdict: I thought this was a bit of a slog, albeit a wonderfully nostalgic, romantic one. I love Italy and this definitely made me want to return, but, just like train travel itself, this book was a bit slow at times.

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes
384 pages
I reviewed this one more extensively as well, somewhat disappointed after enjoying You Before Me several months ago. Moyes delivers for the first third of the book, which is set during the German occupation of France during WWI, but then becomes way too flat both in plot, characters, and writing for the duration of the text.

Verdict: It was at times entertaining, but I was quite underwhelmed. 

9 Inches by Tom Perrotta
256 pages
This collection of short stories details the troubled lives of suburbanites. The ten stories bring us tales of divorce, death, affairs, college rejections, paid SAT test-takers, and drug sellers. Perrotta's standard easy wit is present in each story, highlighting both the best and worst in his characters. My biggest issue with this collection was I thought it was a bit uneven; some of the stories were obviously better than others.

Verdict: Personally, I think Perrotta's novels are better, but there are a few gems in this bunch.

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